It’s been almost a week since the 33 miners trapped for 70 days in the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Northern Chile, were rescued. While the whole world watched the miraculous rescue, choreographed and controlled by the Chilean government, led by right-wing billionaire President Sebastián Piñera, now the world outside Chile continues their gaze on the miners, with an emphasis on their personal lives, poking for information on what films will be made, what books will be written, are they having nightmares, where did they use the bathroom, if they wanted to eat each other and which miner’s infidelities were exposed.
Also we see the miner’s experience, the result of weak government enforcement of safety standards and the failure of the company that owned the San Jose mine, San Esteban, to invest in worker safety, being commodified. The Phoenix 2, the capsule that brought rescue workers down and the trapped miners up, has already been slapped with a value, just in case it’s sold and every rescued miner has been given an iPod.
What isn’t be respected is the space needed to the miners to heal from this trauma. Their families also need to heal. And all this focus on the personal also lets the company that ran the San Jose Mine off the hook, the Chilean government off the hook, and fails to look critically at the dangers facing all laborers in Chile, Latin America, and globally.
What President Piñera is doing, is milking the moment for all that it is worth. He stayed on the scene as each of the 33 miners rose to the Earth’s surface, hugged their wives and children, and of course smiled for all the cameras. One could argue that Piñera didn’t do anything that was outside the scope of his job. Now he’s traveling the globe, handing out pieces of rocks from the mine to the Queen of England while promising to sign international agreements on mine safety.
And what of the almost 300 men who weren’t trapped in the San Jose mine and their families. With the San Jose mine closed indefinitely, these families now worry about their own futures. There will be no movie or book deals for them, only worries about how to put food on the table and with the future of the company that owns the mine in question, it’s not clear if these workers will even get a portion of their pensions.
In the southern part of Chile, the workers of another mine, El Toqui, de Breakwater Resources (a Canadian company), are on strike and have received virtually no media attention. Among their demands are raises to bring the wages of the almost 300 workers up to the minimum wage. The majority of the workers reportedly barely make half of that now.
Now tell me again why should the media care about how many lovers Yonni Barrios had/has?